Virgil van Dijk

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 15

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The congested schedule means we’ve had two match days since we last took stock of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We’ve got a brand new Top Five (well, in terms of the four behind eventual champions Liverpool) and two teams dipping to season lows on our ol’ litmus test.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — As many losses as goals (9), and that figure is one more than the Hornets’ total points. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the verge of full-time manager No. 3, as full-time manager of Watford is a bit more like seasonal help.
Last week: 18
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Crystal Palace

19. Everton — A top half team in terms of talent seeks the manager who can organize its way out of the drop zone. Might it be this guy? Better than the alternatives.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 5-2 at Liverpool
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Chelsea

18. Norwich City — The first team to 10 losses is four points shy of 17th.
Last week: 16
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Southampton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Sheffield United

17. West Ham United — A gigantic ball of “blah.” Should thank Everton for existing so people aren’t more focused on this particular collection of currently squandered talent.
Last week: 20
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Wolves
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Monday v. Arsenal

16. Bournemouth — It’s just not good enough, is it? To have held onto Callum Wilson and get another step up in class from Philip Billing and still be so wildly inconsistent.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Liverpool

15. Southampton — It really feels like the Danny Ings revival show could rival any story for the best individual one in the league this season. Happy to see Ralph Hasenhuttl get some good performances, as he was being scapegoated in a hurry.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Norwich City
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Newcastle United

14. Aston Villa — Allowing a league-worst 18.8 shots per game, but staying in the mix thanks to Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Leicester City

13. Arsenal — The Gunners back line gets a lot of heat, and rightly so, but maybe a little help from the midfield would be nice considering Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz have combined for 39 blocks. Sokratis is third in the PL and Luiz fourth.
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Brighton and Hove Albion
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Monday at West Ham United


12. Brighton and Hove Albion — First win ever away to Arsenal is another feather in the cap of Graham Potter, especially nice considering they had lost four on the bounce.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-1 at Arsenal
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

11. Newcastle United — No one is punching above its weight more than Steve Bruce‘s Magpies, and they’ve been aided in a big way by Martin Dubravka. The Slovakian goalkeeper has a league-best 44 saves from shots inside the 18.

Also, according to Understat’s xG numbers, they should’ve lost to the Blades. In fat, the xG table says they should be dead last. Life’s funny like that. It’s Steve Bruce’s world and we’re living in it.
Last week: 15
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 at Sheffield United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Southampton

https://understat.com/match/11786

10. Sheffield United — Just lost for the first time since September. That’s amazing.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Norwich City

9. Burnley — Striker Chris Wood has been credited with 12 “big chances missed” by Sofascore, more than any player in the league.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 4-1 v. Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. Saturday at Spurs

8. Spurs — Jose Mourinho learned Wednesday that Moussa Sissoko is nice for the squad, but not to be leaned on.

Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Manchester United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Burnley

7. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 68 dribbles are 13 more than anyone else in the league.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Bournemouth
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Watford

6. Manchester United — Ole had himself a moment in outfoxing Mourinho without Pogba or Martial.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Spurs
Up next: 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Man City

5. Chelsea — We told you, Frank. WE TOLD YOU.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Aston Villa
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Everton

4. Manchester City — Aymeric Laporte is still two months away and that’s two months too long.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 4-1 at Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Manchester United

3. Wolves — This is going to sound nuts, but there are days I’d rather see Liverpool on my schedule than Wolves. The Reds are obviously better weaponized, but Wolves come at you in waves, man, and Nuno Espirito Santo is doing it without his best center back.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-0 v. West Ham United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Brighton and Hove Albion

2. Leicester City — How’s this for an unsustainable stat? Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira rank first and second in the league in tackles, with 67 and 62.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Watford
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Aston Villa
1. Liverpool — Big Virgil Van Dijk is on track to become the first Premier League player to complete 1000 passes this season, currently at 953.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 5-2 v. Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Bournemouth

Van Dijk: Liverpool proved ‘everyone is ready’ for decisive December, January

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Liverpool will play as many as 13 more games between now and the end of January — a period which is sure to go a long way toward deciding the fate of their season, including the Premier League title — and superstar defender Virgil Van Dijk insists that Wednesday’s 5-2 thrashing of rivals Everton proved “everyone is ready” to step up and do their part.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Manager Jurgen Klopp made five changes to the team that faced Everton, matching the number of goals his side scored. According to Van Dijk, that level of squad rotation was only a preview of what’s the come over the next eight weeks — quotes from the Guardian:

“The players who came into the team don’t play regularly at all. Look at Divock [Origi], [Xherdan] Shaqiri, they did fantastic. We played Adam [Lallana], Milly [James Milner]; everyone is contributing and we need everyone. That is the key message and it is good. The season is very long. This month is very long — January as well — so we need everyone to be ready.

“We have a big squad and everyone is part of what is going on at the moment. Everyone is happy with the situation we are in. And everyone is also feeling responsible as well, ready to play or if you are on the bench. Everyone is part of the success we have and that is the message to everyone and so far, so good.”

Liverpool’s schedule for December and January breaks down as follows: eight games in the PL, one each in the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup, and up to two in the FIFA Club World Cup. The Reds’ PL fixture against West Ham United was also rescheduled due to their participation in the Club World Cup.

Through 15 games in the PL, Liverpool hold an eight-point lead on second-place Leicester City and an 11-point advantage on third-place and two-time defending champions Manchester City.

Van Dijk: ‘Very proud’ to be in running for Ballon d’Or

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A centerback hasn’t won the Ballon d’Or – or FIFA’s Best Male Player award – since 2006, when Fabio Cannavarro earned the prize off the back of a tremendous summer leading Italy to the 2006 World Cup title.

[READ: Leo Messi wins 6th Ballon d’Or]

In the end, Virgil Van Dijk came this close to breaking the duopoly held by strikers and playmaking midfielders. The Liverpool centerback finished second in the voting, and he was able to sit right next to Lionel Messi before the Argentine star was announced as the award winner.

“You need to respect greatness. I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better,” van Dijk told Liverpool’s website after the event in Paris on Monday. “I’m very proud of what I achieved last year, with Liverpool and Holland. Hopefully we can do it again this year. I never thought I would be up for a Ballon d’Or until I was actually nominated. It says a lot about how my career has been, it has never been easy. I came late but I never gave up on my dreams. I had to work very hard every step of the way.

“Where I am right now is something I’m very proud of. To be here makes me very proud and makes me want to work even harder and hopefully be here next year again.”

Van Dijk had an outstanding season with Liverpool in 2018-2019, cementing himself as the pre-eminent centerback in the world and leading the Reds to a UEFA Champions League title. At the same time, van Dijk’s strong defensive work allowed Liverpool to come within one point of Manchester City for the Premier League title, nearly ending a three-decade drought for Liverpool.

Van Dijk hasn’t dropped any levels into this season. Thanks to his strong defensive play, Liverpool has a double-digit lead in the Premier League standings over Man City, and could run away with the title if the Reds continue to pick up points. Van Dijk finishing second shows how valuable he is even abroad, and where would Liverpool be without him? Certainly not leading the league right now.

The 28-year-old centerback has sort of blossomed late, but he’s used every move as a stepping stone to a moment like this. From making his debut at 20-years old with Gronigen in the Netherlands to a move to Celtic and then Southampton, van Dijk has improved at every stage to become one of the best players in the world.

Ranking the top 10 Ballon d’Or contenders

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The Ballon d’Or will be awarded in Paris, France on Monday, as the top player on the planet in the last 12 months will be honored by France Football.

But who deserves the coveted title?

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are among the favorites once again, as one or the other won this award for 10 years on the trot with five each, but Luka Modric broke up their monopoly after being crowned the best player on the planet in 2018.

Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk is among the favorites given his transformative arrival at Anfield to take Jurgen Klopp‘s side to European glory last season and so close to a first Premier League title, while the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Sadio Mane and Raheem Sterling are all leading contenders too.

But all eyes will be on Messi (the bookmakers favorite), Ronaldo and Van Dijk as the Argentine star was named FIFA’s Best Player of the Year, VVD won UEFA’s top player and both times Ronaldo came up short.

Below is a look at our ranking of the top 10 candidates (from the 30-man shortlist) as the winner will be announced later on Monday.

Feel free to add your thoughts and let us know who you think deserves to win the award in the comments section below.


10. Eden Hazard: A very decent season with Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri and led Belgium to top spot in the world rankings. His start at Real Madrid hasn’t been that impressive, but we know the quality he has and injuries have started to build up.

9. Roberto Lewandowski: A simply amazing start to the 2019-20 season for club and country has pushed Lewandowski higher up the list. He’s led Poland to EURO 2020 and made sure Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga last season despite all of their struggles. The best central striker on the planet? Quite possibly.

8. Bernardo Silva: What an incredible 12 months the Portuguese playmaker has had. Silva has taken his game to a totally new level and he was key in Man City winning the PL title last season, and Portugal winning the inaugural UEFA Nations League trophy.

7. Alisson: Alongside Virgil van Dijk the Brazilian goalkeeper has transformed Liverpool’s defensive unit. He doesn’t have a weakness and is so good with the ball at his feet. Alisson came up big throughout their UCL run and his injury at the start of this season proved how much they need him.

6. Kylian Mbappe: It is amazing to think he is only 21 years old. Mbappe carried PSG to the French title last season while Neymar was out injured and he is France’s leading light as they aim for EURO 2020 glory this summer. He continues to get better each and every month.

5. Sadio Mane: So often the player in Liverpool’s side who was under appreciated, that is no longer the case for Mane. This season he leads the team in goals with 12 as Salah battles through injury. Mane is clutch and always delivers when Liverpool need him most.

4. Raheem Sterling: Talking about delivering, Raheem Sterling’s incredible consistency has seen him move close to breaking into the top three in the world conversation. He has finally found composure in front of goal and the Man City and England star has scored 15 goals for City this season and eight goals in nine games in 2019 for the Three Lions. 12 months from now it feels like Sterling will be pushing hard for the Ballon d’Or.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo: Another country, another team, another title. Cristiano Ronaldo is a machine and led Juventus to the Serie A title last season as well as Portugal to the Nations League trophy. He is a serial winner but there has been a few signs of his production slowing down. Still, he is in the top three.

2. Lionel Messi: He may well win the award a secure a record sixth Ballon d’Or and recent displays will probably seal it if he does. Barcelona won La Liga and he has been at his wizard-like best for most of the last 12 months, but there have been blips like they UCL semifinal defeat at Liverpool and his meltdown for Argentina against Chile. Messi is undoubtedly the GOAT, but don’t be surprised if he’s pipped at the post to this award.

1. Virgil van Dijk: Okay, here me out here. Virgil van Dijk is a towering giant and on his own he has not only transformed Liverpool defensively but also their mentality into a winning team too. He has also done that for the Netherlands as they’ve been totally transformed under Ronald Koeman and it’s hard to remember a defensive player having such a big impact for club and country over a 12-month period. VVD is a born leader and he deserves to win this award. Messi may win it, but Van Dijk deserves it.

Liverpool draws Napoli, takes UCL fate to last match day

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Napoli drew Liverpool 1-1 on Wednesday to push the Reds’ knockout round qualification hopes to the final match day.

Liverpool will advance with a draw or better in Austria against Red Bull Salzburg on Dec. 10. It could also advance with a loss if Napoli fails to beat Genk in Italy.

Salzburg lost 4-3 at Anfield during the first meeting but carries three away goals in case it wins and a tiebreaker is required.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Dries Mertens scored in the first half, but Dejan Lovren leveled the score in the second half.

Premier League teams would love to have a word with Napoli, or subscribe to their diet or something; The Serie A side has now a 2-1-1 record against the reigning UCL champs dating back to last season.


Three things we learned

1. VAR doesn’t save Reds from opening concession: There were two reviews of Dries Mertens opener, but neither stopped the “1” from staying on the visitor’s side of the scoreboard as the Belgian scored for the second-straight match against Liverpool. Mertens timed his run perfectly well, though at first glance it looked like offside would be the call. Also, as good as the finish was, it was helped by a rare mistake from Alisson Becker. The Liverpool goalkeeper was married to his post.

2. Reds have trouble getting going: Napoli’s plan was to punch Liverpool in the mouth. No, literally. The Neapolitan set had the Reds off balance in the first half hour or so, but goalkeeper Alex Meret was called upon twice in the final 10 minutes to keep the advantage 1-0. The second half was much better, and the Reds could’ve found more than their lone tally.

3. Fabinho injury a worry: Liverpool’s midfield monster walked off the pitch and straight into the tunnel with an apparent hip injury. He was already going to miss this weekend via suspension, so if it’s something small he’ll have some time to heal before the Merseyside Derby on Dec. 4. If it’s not something small, the Reds will have some problems navigating a terribly congested December.

Man of the Match: There wasn’t a true star in this one. Obviously Lovren and Mertens delivered the goals, and Kalidou Koulibaly was good at the back for Napoli. But we’ll give it to James Milner, who left in the 78th minute with an assist to go with 89 percent passing, two tackles, three aerials won, and two dribbles.


Napoli took the lead when Van Dijk was momentarily hobbled while rising above Mertens for an aerial win.

Mertens took off as Napoli gained possession, and the Belgian’s run to meet a Giovanni di Lorenzo through ball was immaculate in beating the line set by Andy Robertson. As noted above, Alisson wasn’t at his best and would’ve needed to be in order to stop a terrific strike.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Liverpool came to life and might’ve won a penalty due to some Sadio Mane tomfoolery that the referee was correct to dismiss as embellishment (no card, though). The Senegalese star would later rifle a shot that Meret turned away to keep it 1-0 heading to the break.

Mohamed Salah pumped a shot into Meret’s belly at the hour mark as Liverpool fought for an equalizer. Oxlade-Chamberlain then cued up Roberto Firmino for a header that was probably put off by Kostas Manolas.

Liverpool found its answer off a corner kick, James Milner sending it in and Lovren finishing the play.